Vistara, the TATA-SIA joint venture domestic full service airline based out of Delhi will connect Bangalore to Delhi and Mumbai effective 16th June 2015 (tomorrow), with one flight each way, each day. This will coincide with the 159th day of operation of the airline. The airline also doubles the Delhi-Lucknow and back frequency. In the process, the airline will withdraw one service between Mumbai and Ahmedabad (UK968 and UK953), reducing the weekly frequency to 6 from 13.
The Delhi-Lucknow sector is faring well for the airline.
After the addition of the new sectors and withdrawal of flights, Vistara will operate 237 weekly flights with six aircraft connecting 10 cities, deploying a weekly capacity of 35 million ASKs. This is a remarkable growth in just a little over six months of operations.
Of these 35 million ASKs, 21 million are deployed on category 1 (CAT I) routes that connect metros to metros. The remaining are deployed on CAT II routes (connecting ‘neglected’ regions with other cities), CAT IIA routes (connecting cities/towns within neglected regions), and CAT III routes (connecting other cities not included in CAT I, II and IIA). The capacity on CAT II, IIA, III routes are 12%, 2% and 51% of the CAT I capacity, meeting and exceeding the DGCA requirement for capacity deployment on these routes.
The airline’s six aircraft will fly up to 35 flights a day. One of the aircraft rotations fly up to 12:20 hrs, while the Bangalore rotation flies 8:55 hrs. The average aircraft utilisation will settle at 11:14hrs per aircraft per day. Typical turnaround time is 40-45 minutes.
The flight from Bangalore halts at Mumbai for 5:25 hours, sufficient to operate a Mumbai-Goa sector – something the airline isn’t keen on operating now due to the stiff competition on that route. The Delhi-Bangalore flight operates in the morning and the return in the evening, making it very convenient for a Delhi business traveller, but unattractive to a Bangalore based business traveller. For a corporate focussed airline, this sparse service is a surprise. AirAsia India, which caters to the leisure traveller, offers much better frequencies and timings for business travellers based at either city. The airline will increase frequencies on the Bangalore – Delhi sector with the induction of its 7th aircraft.
The airline however offers multiple other connections to Delhi from Bangalore via Mumbai, with the most attractive connection (direct, lowest cost) being featured at the bottom of the list of options. This may need to be corrected to sort by connections, rather than time of departure.
The airline’s target of a 9 aircraft fleet by end of calendar year 2015 still sticks. Two of the aircraft will be fitted with the wireless in-flight entertainment system, which will later be rolled out fleet wide after an evaluation on these two aircraft.
Vistara, which by end of year will be a true full service carrier with the IFE system, is launching a new in-flight menu offering from 1st July. The new menu is derived from the feedback received from customers over the last six months of operation.
The airline is tying up with multiple companies of the TATA group to offer cross-company benefits to customers.
The month of May was the first month of high travel demand (one of the two high domestic demand months in a calendar year) that Vistara witnessed. Load factors at the airline were 69%.
The airline’s relatively low brand awareness may be impacting the airline’s loads and perhaps in part its pricing power. Marketing activities at the airline may need to be stepped up to effectively communicate the benefits of a fairly less known and new product – premium economy, which accounts for 24% of the airline’s seats.
Air Vistara, the newest Indian airline working towards an AOP, conducted its first two proving flights on 4th and 5th December, 2014, as officially confirmed by the airline. The first flight took off from Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport at around 22:10IST (16:40UTC) on December 4th and landed at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport at 5 minutes past midnight (00:05IST/18:35UTC) on 5th December. The return flight took off at 01:10IST (19:40UTC) and landed at Delhi at around 02:50IST (21:21UTC).
Proving flights are the last stage of a lengthy process involved in securing an Air Operator Permit (AOP). Considering that the proving flights may wrap up by 7th December, the AOP may be awarded on 15th December, after the completion of the FAA Audit of DGCA, which is hoped to be completed on the 12th December 2014. The airline may start operations early January.
When operations start, it will be the first full service carrier to be launched in a decade. Kingfisher airlines commenced operations in 2005 and no full service, pan-India carrier has since been launched.
The airline was awarded its NOC from the aviation ministry on the 3rd of April, 2014, and applied for an AOP on the 22nd of April, 2014. The eight month period between AOP application and approval is similar to the period taken to award AirAsia India’s AOP.
Vistara has two Airbus A320-232SL aircraft (A320/IAE V2527-A5 engines/Sharklet equipped) in its fleet, of which one is completed in the airline’s livery. The liveried aircraft performed the proving flight.
The airline plans to have six flights between Delhi and Mumbai in the first year of operations. Other destinations planned in the first year of services are Goa, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Srinagar, Jammu, Patna and Chandigarh. The DGCA’s Civil Aviation Policy CAP 3100 stipulates that the airline ‘will be required to conduct a minimum of 5 flight sectors on intended routes, with total duration of not less than 10 flight hours’. The Delhi – Mumbai route contributes to around 1hr 40 minutes one way, adding to 3:20hrs for both ways. The airline will have to fly another 6:40hrs. Should the airline fly Delhi-Bangalore and back, it will add around 4:40hrs. The balance 2:00hrs may be picked up by flying either to Ahmedabad or Patna and back.
The liveried aircraft, registered VT-TTB, is the first aircraft that the airline received on the 24th of September, 2014, at Toulouse. The second aircraft, registered VT-TTC, was handed over to the airline five days later, on the 29th of September, 2014. The first aircraft got its livery at Singapore, and landed back at Delhi on the 15th of October, 2014, coinciding with the 82nd anniversary of JRD Tata’s first commercial flight from Karachi to Mumbai.
Three other aircraft, registered VT-TTD, TTE, and TTF are at Toulouse, reportedly not delivered in the light of the uncertainty associated with the DGCA’s delay in granting the new airline company its Air Operator’s Permit. The fifth aircraft recently flew to Hamburg, Germany, where the cabin interiors are fitted.
The airline plans to have a fleet of current engine option (CEO) and new engine option (NEO) A320 aircraft. The first 20 Airbus aircraft are to be leased from BOC Aviation – a Bank of China company that has its origins in Singapore Airlines. The duration of the lease agreement is six years for the A320-200 CEO aircraft and twelve years for the A320-200NEO aircraft.
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA), Mumbai, (ICAO: VABB IATA: BOM) has something new to boast off, near Terminal 1B and 1A; specifically in the forecourt of the domestic terminal in Santacruz at the Terminal 1B parking area: a new Air Traffic Control tower that was inaugurated on the 18th of October, 2013, but is expected to be operational only by the end of 2013, or early 2014.
The 84-meter tower has been designed by global architectural firm HOK, Hong Kong. While the tower cab will be specifically designed to have a clear line of sight for Air Traffic Controller, providing a visibility of over 5 miles, the G+3 floors below will house infrastructure facilities supporting the tower.
With new systems installed, the new ATC Tower will ease air traffic congestion and increase the efficiency at CSIA, handling 46 flights per hour as against 40 being handled now. Plans are to further support movements of upto 48 per hour.
Once fully operational, the old tower, located very close to runway 14-32, will be demolished to complete the construction of taxiway E10. the new taxiway will help increase movements at the airport.
This tower, for now the tallest in India, will lose its height title to the new 102 meter tall ATC tower at Delhi’s Indra Gandhi International Airport (ICAO: VIDP IATA DEL), which is soon expected to be commissioned. The Delhi ATC tower has been designed by the same architectural firm that designed the ATC at Mumbai, and the extended Terminal 1 at Bangalore International Airport: HOK.
A Jet Blast Shield, installed at Queenstown Airport, NZ. Image taken from Blastwall.
A common practice at India is the misunderstanding of technical specifications. This leads to field failures. Further effort is spent into a turtle-paced probe of the failure, and till the probe is completed, inconveniences are caused; the inconveniences leading to losses, and the losses finally blamed upon the manufacturer whose specifications were misunderstood.
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai (ICAO: VABB, IATA: BOM) has two physical runways, one running east-west (09-27), and the other one running north-west-south-east (32-14). The east end of 09-27 is very close to a road, and the Jhari Mari slum. The proximity to the road and slum poses a safety issue, when airplanes open power for takeoff.
The jet blast, from aircraft jet engines, have been demonstrated to cause significant damage to proximate objects, such as cars, and houses. (view the video towards the end of this article) The problem is amplified in larger, and heavier airplanes, that require a significantly greater amount of takeoff thrust.
For example, on an Airbus A320 (180 passengers, maximum takeoff weight up to 78 tonnes), with the CFM 56 Engines, exhaust velocities of upto 144km/h may be recorded at 500ft behind the aircraft. On an Airbus A330 (typically 335 passengers, maximum takeoff weight up to 235 tonnes), with the GE CF6-80E1 engines, exhaust velocities of upto 169km/h may be recorded at 500ft behind the aircraft. On an Airbus A380 (typically 525 passengers, maximum takeoff weight up to 560 tonnes), with the GP 7200 Engines, exhaust velocities of upto 169km/h may be recorded upto 720ft behind the aircraft. The A380, unlike the previous examples, has four engines, pushing a larger mass of air, and causing more potential damage.
Engine Exhaust Velocities at takeoff, Airbus A380 with Trent 900 Engines
According to the Beaufort Scale of wind speeds, wind speeds in excess of 119 km/h cause “Severe structural damage to buildings".
At Mumbai airport, when aircraft line up on runway 27 (easterly end) for a departure (takeoff), the closest approximate distance between the aircraft and a sufficiently busy road named “Magan Nathuram" is 500ft. With all sorts of vehicles: cars and tall, loaded trucks plying on the road, the risk of a jet blast’s direct and indirect damage to vehicles, and the adjacent slums, is very high, every time an aircraft takes off.
The Jet Blast shield located near the threshold of Runway 27. The visible gap in the centre is the portion that was jet-blasted away in 2012.
This necessitates a Jet Blast shield: a well designed barrier between the aircraft and the road. In 2011, a new Jet blast barrier from Blastwall, a Canadian firm, was installed. A year later, in the July of 2012, the shield gave way when a cargo plane tookoff. Along with the shield, the ILS Localizer array, located right behind the shield and responsible for Runway 09 operations, was damaged.
The Times of India brought out an article on this damaged shield, which may be read HERE.
Since the July of 2012, the jet blast shield has been left damaged. Satellite images show the central section of the Jet Blast shield missing. The risk of a jet blast affecting civilians outside the airport perimeter has forced Mumbai airport to shut a part of taxiway “N1", with the NOTAM A0900/12 stating: “PORTION OF TWY ‘N1’ EAST OF TWY ‘N3’ NOT AVBL FOR OPS". While the ILS has been repaired, the Jet blast shield hasn’t and as such, aircraft can line up on Runway 27 only via taxiway N3, displacing the take off point almost 1000ft ahead: a requirement to prevent Jet Blasting the locals away.
Interestingly, Blastwall has installed their shields at Toronto Pearson International Airport, and at Queenstown Airport. At Both airports, the installed jet blast shield is located greater than 530ft behind the estimated closest aircraft line up position. At Mumbai, the shield is located only about 400ft behind, subjecting it to greater stresses.
A statement from Peter Roston, President of Blastwall Ltd:
“We have provided frangible fibreglass blast walls to airports all over the world since 1998 and have never had a failure including here in Mumbai. Our specifications are clearly outlined on our web site and in fact were quoted in the purchase order we received for this wall originally. Unfortunately someone misunderstood the limitations as expressed on our site. As a result, once placed in operation, the wall was overstressed almost 100% from the specifications. Being frangible, it did as required and collapsed. In fact the wall performed exactly as designed. Both the president of our engineering company and myself flew to Mumbai to discuss the collapse , review the misunderstanding, and determine a path to correct this problem for the future. We suggested a drastically reinforced model. Eventually, after review of our specifications by the purchaser’s own engineers, this was approved and purchased. It was shipped some time ago and is at the site awaiting installation."
The very fact that a new, reinforced jet blast shield was purchased is proof that the company was not held liable for a defective product. Peter agreed with the Flying Engineer’s view, stating, “There are only really two solutions: 1- build a stronger wall to contain a higher velocity and/or 2- move the aircraft further from the wall."
The most frequently used runway for operations, 09-27, is 11,312ft long. A fully laden Boeing 747-400ER Freighter, at 412 Tonnes, requires around 11,000ft of runway to take off at sea level, at 32°C. With almost 1,000ft knocked off, the smaller available take off distance when departing from runway 27 (westerly direction), lowers the permissible takeoff weight of the 747-400ER by 10 tonnes.
NOTAM A0900/12 is still in effect, and this introduces a payload penalty for long haul operations of large aircraft.
To better appreciate what a Jetblast can do to a vehicle, watch this 50 second video, involving anAirbus A319 (Upto 75.5 Tonnes Maximum Take Off Weight, 156 Pasengers maximum seating capacity, 2 CFM 56-5 Engines producing a max thrust of around 12,000 kg force each):
Change in aviation is met with heavy resistance, and even a ten year old technology is considered relatively new. With the introduction of Performance Based Navigation (PBN) in the Indian Airspace, confusion still exists on RNAV (aRea NAVigation), RNP (Required Navigation Performance), and where this RNAV/RNP are implemented in the Indian ATS.
Waypoint LATID, seen as referenced to Bangalore International Airport’s VOR (BIA). LATID = BIA/012deg/77NM or N14 28.6 E077 56.9
The basic airway system (in India and the world over) was constructed based on sensors: the VOR and the NDB stations and receivers on board the airplane, which provide the capability to fly to, or from a radio station along one of its “radials". These radio stations are scattered, purposely, across the country, and the airway system is constructed by simply “connecting the dots", and an aircraft’s position is always relative to one of these stations. Example: Waypoint LATID is 77NM from Bangalore International Airport’s VOR (BIA), on a radial of 012°of BIA.
When an aircraft’s navigation system has a little more intelligence: the ability to scan and receive signals from multiple such radio ground stations, or from self contained navigation aids, such as the Inertial Reference System (IRS), or from the globally available GPS satellite constellation, and determine the aircraft’s position in terms of the World Geodesic System 1984 (WGS-84) coordinates, it provides the ability to determine the aircraft’s absolute position, rather than referencing it to a sparse set of radio stations. Example: Waypoint LATID is N14° 28.6’ E077° 56.9’.
The advantage with absolute position is freedom in the lateral: an aircraft can determine its absolute position, and fly to another waypoint whose absolute position is known, without having to stick to a “radial" or a VOR station. The ability to fly “Direct-To" another waypoint from the present position offers an easily comprehendible advantage: fuel savings through shorter, more direct routes. This freedom in the lateral, and the ability to navigate freely in an area, gives rise to RNAV, or Area Navigation.
Indian airspace is comprised mostly of “W" routes, which are, as per AAI, exclusively available for domestic operators only. According to ICAO Annex 11, a “W" route is NOT an Area Navigation Route, which means, the airway is constructed with reference to ground radio beacons, and are mostly direct from one beacon to another.
The other airways in India are “A", “B", “G", “L", “M", “N", “P", “Q", “R", “UL", “UM". Of these, “L", “M", “N", “P" and “Q" are area navigation routes. This means that these routes are not constrained to fly between ground based radio stations, but are instead optimised, more direct routes that save fuel. The “Q" routes were recently introduced in 2012, in July.
Since flying these routes implies a reliance on the aircraft’s complex navigation system (which authorities have no operational control of) rather than the simpler ground referenced navigation system (which authorities maintain), it is imperative that in the interest of safety, the complex area navigation system be capable of a certain navigation accuracy, also termed the navigation performance.
Certain routes, and certain procedures may require a higher navigation accuracy and its associated certainty, while others may be less demanding. To quantify these “higher and lesser" accuracies, the term “Required Navigation Performance" (RNP) was introduced, which stipulates the minimum navigational accuracy that must be guaranteed, with a certainty of 95% availability.
With RNP, of the many requirements, the aircraft must be capable of displaying the Actual Navigation Performance (ANP). As long as the actual navigation performance is within the limits of the RNP, everyone’s happy. But if the ANP gets worse than the RNP, that’s when Air Traffic Control must be notified so they can keep close eye on you and other airplanes in relation to your aircraft, and direct you based on conventional navigational practices.
The Area Navigation Routes – “L", “M", “N", “P" – are all RNP 10 in India. The newly introduced “Q" routes, are all RNP 5. This means that your aircraft’s navigation accuracy must be better than 5 NM if it is to fly along the newly introduced 7 “Q" routes: Q1 – Q7. If however the ANP of the aircraft is 5.5 NM, then the accuracy is not enough to fly the “Q" routes, but accurate enough to fly thee RNP 10 routes: “L", “M", “N", “P".
Q1, W13N, and a Direct route as shown between Mumbai (BBB) and Delhi (DPN) VORs
The benefits of the RNP routes are evident. The newly introduced “Q" routes connect Delhi to Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, and Vadodra. Picking “Q1", which is Mumbai to Delhi (BBB- DPN), there are 13 waypoints in between the starting (BBB) VOR and the ending (DPN) VOR. Except for one, none of the other waypoints are ground based radio aids. The total ground distance between Mumbai and Delhi along Q1 is 633NM. The domestic non-RNAV “W13N" route between Mumbai and Delhi, has 5 waypoints in between, three of which are ground based radio aids (VOR). The ground distance along W13N is 653NM. A347, another non-RNAV route between Mumbai and Delhi, has 9 waypoints in between, three of which are ground based radio aids. The ground distance along A347 is 735NM. Compared to W13N and A347, Q1 saves 20NM and 102NM of ground distance, which translates to a saving of between 2 minutes and 14 minutes of flying time. A heavy Airbus A320, flying at FL350 at 76Tonnes, can save between 124 kg and 634 kg of fuel, which translates to a saving of between INR 11,000 and INR 56,227 per Mumbai-Delhi flight. Another advantage is the smooth flight path, as opposed to the zig-zag of non-RNAV routes.
Indigo’s 11 daily direct flights from Mumbai to the capital can save the airline about INR 1,21,000 per day, one way alone! Air India, with 12 direct flights, saves INR 1,32,000 one way, per day.
Aircraft with high navigation performance are allowed to fly the RNP routes. With higher accuracy, more airplanes can be squeezed on an airway. The “Q" routes allow aircraft to aircraft longitudinal separation of 50NM, while W13N allowed for a 10 minute separation, which translates to around 75NM. Theoretically, up to 13 airplanes may now fly on Q1, at any point of time, as compared to 9 on W13N. The capacity of the Indian Air Traffic System (ATS) has increased 44% on this route alone.
RNP and RNAV arrivals and departures are already in use, explained in another article which shall follow soon.